Hungry for Local Food? Feast On Helps You to Dine Like a Real Local
As diners in Toronto, we’re blessed with a plethora of choices, but deciding what to eat can be tough these days, especially if we’re moved to eat responsibly. Focusing not just on what we consume but also where it comes from isn’t a new concept. Whether it’s to support local producers or reduce our carbon footprint, what we eat and, in turn, where we eat has become an important aspect of our lifestyle choices. It’s not just young and hip urbanites who are influenced this way. Educated travelers also make dining decisions based on this ideal. In fact, one of the easiest—and most delicious, for that matter—ways savvy urban explorers can navigate a city like a local is through its culinary scene. For Ontarians, the Feast On® certification program helps diners identify which members of the food service industry are supporting local producers. Feast On certified restaurants are committed to sourcing food and drink that is grown and produced in Ontario whenever possible. By championing foods that are local and seasonal, these businesses are also helping build the local food identity. Besides working with Ontario’s farmers, Feast On–certified purveyors are also helping support the local economy by putting dollars back into the communities. Last year our restaurants reported buying $30.3 million worth of food. What does it take to be Feast On certified? In a nutshell, restaurants have to prove that their annual purchases are grown, raised or made (such as beverages) in Ontario. The not-for-profit Culinary Tourism Alliance puts the businesses through a rigorous biannual audit that examines their procurement practices, identifying the provenance by tracking and tracing the product. What does this mean for diners and restaurants? By choosing to eat out at a Feast On–certified restaurant or business, you’re not only supporting the local food system but you can also have peace of mind knowing where your food comes from.
For restaurants like Montecito, having the best locally procured produce from 100km Foods, foraged goods from Marc’s Mushrooms, Planet Shrimp’s sustainably raised shrimp and foods from other notable Canadian suppliers means they’re able to deliver on offering the quality farm-to-table-inspired Californian cuisine that they’re known for. The collaboration between Hollywood director Ivan Reitman and Toronto-based Innov8 Hospitality was Feast On certified in 2018, and their new executive chef, Guillermo Herbertson, says that 75 to 80 per cent of his ingredients are procured from within the province.
Herbertson’s panzanella salad, for example, uses heirloom tomatoes from Murray’s Farm and Blackbird Baking Co.’s sourdough bread that’s dressed with a Niagara black cherry vinaigrette. The chef shares that having an established relationship with a producer like Murray means that he’s privy to quality products that can be passed on to the restaurant’s guests.
“The thing I love about Murray is that he’ll come up to me and say, ‘You know what? The tomatoes for next week aren’t that great. Can you take an extra case this week?’” Herberton continues, “Having that direct relationship with the actual farmer or grower means I know where the product is coming from. I know Fred and Ingrid from Perth Pork and know how good their product is, how it’s raised and how much care they’re putting into their farming.”
For Heather McDougall, Montecito’s general manager and sommelier, supporting wineries like Hidden Bench means having access to new products like their sparkling and low-intervention wines before others. There’s access to limited productions, such as Two Sisters’ wine club–only blanc de franc sparkling, or even being i.e. Honsberger Estate’s only licensee account (their cabernet franc rosé goes perfectly with the panzanella salad).
McDougall also shares another bonus: the opportunity for custom formats, custom blends and side projects.
“When we look at the more custom products, we start to look at expressions and different profiles of wine than the winery typically offers. To see wineries like Hidden Bench get into the low-intervention game with their skin-contact chardonnay or sulfur-free, whole-cluster wines is really exciting.”
Whether you’re a denizen of the GTA or a visitor looking for an Ontario-centric food experience, it’s not difficult to dine like a local. From new players like Leslieville’s Avling Kitchen and Brewery to shops like Sanagan’s Meat Locker, simply look for the Feast On certification.